Labor Contract Labor Contract

Mary R. DeSaussure Labor Contract, 1866.
(John McPherson DeSaussure Papers, South Caroliana Library, University of South Carolina)

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During Reconstruction, cotton remained the South's most important crop with the tools and methods of production essentially the same as before the war.

Most former slaves now worked as sharecroppers, who kept one-third to one-half of the crop for themselves with the remainder going to the landowner. Although the system afforded workers some degree of autonomy, it kept most in a state of poverty and impeded the South's economic development.

The contract is between Mary R. DeSaussure of Kershaw District, South Carolina, and 32 laborers, all of whom were unable to write their names and instead made a "mark."
Copyright 2003
A New Birth of Freedom: Reconstruction During the Civil War he Meaning of Freedom: Black and White Responses to Slavery From Free Labor to Slave Labor Rights and Power: The Politics of Reconstruction Introduction The Ending of Reconstruction Epilogue: The Unfinished Revolution Additional Resources Credits for this Exhibit